Future transportation dollars at risk

  Could transportation funding reach a stalemate yet again this year?
  The politics between all the diverse constituencies at the state could torpedo progress for another year.
   The state House is favoring a statewide sales tax. The state Senate is favoring a regional solution, giving metro counties the option to vote in a one-cent tax.
   The big question is the role the governor will play. Will he side with the House or Senate, or will he promote his own agenda?
   State Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Cobb) told people attending Sustainable Roundtable breakfast meet on Friday, Feb. 6 that the governor has “finally stepped up on transportation.”
   But Gov. Sonny Perdue is indicating that he wants to reform the governance of all the various transportation agencies, including the Georgia Department of Transportation, State Road & Tollway Authority, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and even MARTA and other transit agencies.
  “The governor has indicated he will not support transportation funding unless it addresses governance,” Stoner said.
  Unfortunately, the political and legal ramifications of reconfigurating all the transportation agencies could get in the way of new funding.
   For example, the state legislature now names those serving on GDOT’s board with a member coming from each of the congressional districts. The end result is that the board has diverse representation including four Democrats and three African-American representatives. They have looked out for the interests of urban Atlanta, transit and rail.
  If the governor succeeds in changing GDOT governance so that he, the Lt. Governor and the House Speaker (all three Republicans) appoint all GDOT board members, then political and regional diversity could disappear.
   In short, if these sticky issues dominate, it’s likely there will be no progress on transportation funding during this legislative session.
   “I’m very concerned that even now gubernatorial politics are playing a role,” Stoner said “I’m afraid we won’t be able to have a compromise.”
  Statewide elections for governor and lieutenant governor will take place in 2010.
 

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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